August 5, 2014 by Julia
Dennis was away on a work trip for four days this last week – now that he’s safely back, I can admit this in a public forum.
I was fine keeping the children alive and the house upright on my own for the first three days, which is a pretty good run. The part about feeling fine for three days, I mean. Sometimes family survival is easier when you know beforehand that it’s going to be All Up To You. That viewpoint simplifies things. It’s about perspective and attitude adjustment and being a grownup. When you go into it knowing you’re on your own, you step up, no big deal.
It is empowering, and you’re all, “I got this. Look at me go.”
Plus, you don’t have to negotiate whom does what, whom gets a break from the kids when, whose turn it is to do bath night, whom has control of the TV once the kids are in bed.
But then, after three days, it falls apart. For me, anyway. (This is the part where I say to single parents: you are heroes.)
By Saturday morning, I was…done. It was a morning of face-palms and tears and yelling and lethargy and minor disasters.
Jack wanted to be nude from the waist down. It’s quite a look – top on, but no bottoms. After trying to wrestle some sort of butt covering on him for sanity’s sake, I decided to take a silver linings approach and declare it another potty training day. I put three towels down in various seats and told him if he was going to sit with a bare bottom, it had to be on a towel. Then he peed on the kitchen floor and pooped on the living room rug. Both times he was playing and said he just wanted to keep playing, as if that was a reasonable request. I mean, who poops a huge turd onto the floor and then says, “It’s fine!”
I’ll tell you who does that. Toddler boys do that, five minutes after they just sat on the potty for twenty minutes and nothing came out.
I finally dragged myself upstairs to take a shower, bargaining all the way – “Sure, Jack, go ahead and eat Cheetos in my bed while you play with my iPad!” “Okay, Fiona, you can play with my extra makeup stash of ridiculously bright colors that I never wear!” (I keep it around for Halloween, I suppose). She was begging me, and although I was already a puddle who couldn’t handle more stress, I said yes.
Because isn’t the makeup thing some sort of rite of passage for kids? What kind of parent never allows their tiny son or daughter to destroy his or her perfect face with clown makeup? It was almost bearable, at first. And then Jack got involved. I looked away for thirty seconds and when I looked back, he was Heath Ledger’s Joker.
I had a near-death experience, but still had the wherewithal to find my phone to snap a few pictures, hoping that if I survived this day, I could at least post the pictures online. “Silver linings,” I hyperventilated. (Facebook ‘likes’ are basically crusts of bread for socially starved stay-at-home mothers. But you already knew that.)
I even took a video in which I walked into the bathroom and tried a half-hearted, “WHAT is going on here?!?” in a false stab at at surprise, but then remembered that YouTube is overloaded with adorably naughty children and heck, I was already bored.
I shut down production. And then I had a nervous breakdown that probably would have landed me in one of those awful Victorian asylums for inconvenient, emotional women. (See, kids? Feminism=Good.) At the same time, I almost wished someone would come whisk me away, because “shattered nerves” might be a real thing, if a somewhat vague malady. I might qualify for one of those Jane Austen-era trips to Bath, England, though, if anyone other than my children witnessed me at my worst. “Yep! Shattered nerves. She must take the waters at Bath in a long white nightgown.” Let’s just forget about the leeching that might have also been prescribed and fantasize about that for a moment.
Anyway, it was bad, real bad, like “can’t see past this hour” bad and my mom was sending helpful texts about massages and escapes for the afternoon while she and my dad took the kids, and I knew she meant it, but I didn’t actually believe I would ever make it to that point. Or, like, why even try? I am doomed. I love these parasitic creatures body and soul and no one can save me. Which sounds all poetic, but when those creatures are literally screaming in your face and your head is a fog of scattered lists and thwarted personal desires (not as sexy as it sounds; I am referring to the desire to go back to bed and read), it’s a hopeless kind of love for those moments.
Everything did turn out okay, in case you were wondering. I made it to my parents’ place. They took the kids and I went to the mall for one of those chair shiatsu massages, which I highly recommend, by the way. Not the kind with the creepy mechanical balls jabbing you in the back, but the kind where you lie forward in a chair and a highly skilled person massages you right there in the middle of the mall.
Besides the obvious benefits of the massage, it offered a liberating out-of-body experience. Where else is it socially acceptable to act like a corpse in a crowded public space? Strangers stood around my seemingly lifeless body and carried on their conversations as if I were invisible. It was awesome.
After that I got a spa pedicure, which I’ll have you know, is my first of the summer. I don’t want you thinking I’ve got it easy over here!
Although things are somewhat easier now that Dennis is back.